Home Art History Tate Britain’s Rehang: A Zombie Social Art History

Tate Britain’s Rehang: A Zombie Social Art History

by admin

The gallery’s first exhibition change in 10 years reveals a deeper problem: We don’t really know if it matters to everyone.

You might think that relocating the National Public Gallery’s historic art collection would be uncontroversial. This is a refresh and replacement to accommodate new acquisitions and to bring out older works that have been overlooked by curators but deserve to be seen again. That’s simply because there are always more products in the store than can be displayed at once.

But that was before museums became new battlegrounds in the current culture wars, with old art becoming the subject of rapidly changing social and political concerns for a new generation of curators and museum directors. . With a new repositioning of its collections (for the first time in a decade, Tate Britain became the home of British historic art and Tate Modern featured all international contemporary art), Tate Britain Indicates that you fully agree with the rereading. History through the lens of specific social issues, such as postcolonialism, slavery, and race. Regarding the position of women. About the presence of queer and LGBTQ subjects. And about immigration and immigration.

Gallery 23: henry moore and francis bacon (Exhibition view at Tate Britain), 2023. ©Tate. Photo: Eugenio Falconi

This experience was an art history lecturer who cared to ensure that people understood that they were ‘reflecting’ a moment in British social history while preaching about the various injustices and miseries of British social history. It’s like being rushed by an impatient art history lecturer handing out a British version of PowerPoint. It’s less about whether paintings (which are mostly paintings, at least until you get to post-war galleries) are somehow worth seeing.

The new arrangement changes previous exhibitions instituted by Penelope Curtis, Tate Britain’s former director, in which the 2013 arrangement placed works in strict chronology, placing works alongside their contemporaries. We created connections and contrasts with the works so that they can be viewed with minimal notes that provide context. A chronological approach is maintained here, but used to thematise key periods in Britain’s social and political past within the framework of current buzzwords. So at the court of Henry VIII and Charles I (1545-1640) it was said that “the magnificent portraits in this room tell a story of emigration and power”, and the sculptures of Mona his Hatoum There is also. Exodus II, 2007, two battered suitcases connected by coils of human hair sit in the center of the gallery. Perhaps to tell a story of immigration and power (or lack thereof), but certainly to quickly connect everything to contemporary concerns about immigration.

Gallery 16: international modern (Exhibition view at Tate Britain), 2023. ©Tate. Photo: Eugenio Falconi

Or get a room Trouble Glamor 1760-1830 Although the photograph presents a “glamorous image of 18th-century society,” it also shows us that “the lives and places depicted offer clues to the underlying tensions of the time.” Luxuriously dressed, chinless aristocrats and fat gentlemen, the writing on the wall wants to warn you how deeply involved these are in empire, the slave trade, and the exploitation of the working class.George Romney topics Mr. and Mrs. William Lindor (1772), we learn that he was a “prominent transatlantic merchant from Lancaster who took part in the trade in enslaved people.”Thomas Gainsborough’s mesmerizingly delicate work bailey family (around 1784) [their wealth] through the Atlantic trade and the plantations of Grenada and British Guiana.George Stubbs’ pastoral primitive peasant theme haymaker (1765) may seem happy, but he warns that “Such idealized images of labor, in England and abroad, rarely portray its harsh reality.”

thomas gainsborough bailey family, circa 1784.Provided by Tate

There’s nothing inherently wrong with providing the viewer with social and historical context so they can better understand the significance of a work of art at the time it was created. After all, this is how a “new art history” was promoted by radical leftist and feminist art historians in his 1970s and his 1980s and became the established canon in art history departments. However, Tate Britain’s renewal has narrowed its art historical approach to a small number of high-profile issues, reducing British history to a series of controversial episodes of injustice and oppression, and reducing social and cultural almost completely ignores any sense of whether or not something good has been produced. Any of these? Using this history for topical debate also means that boring works take up space just to make a point: revolution and reform 1776–1833John Singleton Copley’s dull and mundane works covering the era of revolutions in Europe and America. Death of Major Pearson, January 6, 1781 (1783) depicts a small British victory over the French, but appears to be here solely because of the presence of black riflemen in the British army.The other side is really elegant and bright Portrait of a man, probably Francis Barber (author unknown, date unknown) depicts the formerly enslaved Barber (a Jamaican man who was Samuel Johnson’s assistant and eventual successor) with dignity and individuality, but the caption reads, “This portrait “Various versions of this may suggest that, as a black person,” , he was treated not as an individual but as a subject of art.

Portrait of a man, probably Francis Barber (artist unknown, undated).Provided by Tate

This modern obsession, whether you think it’s important or not, if you put aside the concern for the purpose that artists throughout history have given to their activities. , it becomes a problem. Get out of Tate Britain, and you could be forgiven for thinking that all artists are doing the same thing. What we have done so far has been to ‘react’ or ‘reflect’ to what is happening in Britain, rather than being concerned with creating something with its own set of values ​​and its own history of ideas. Therefore, when an outdated art term like “beauty” appears, it must be immediately politicized. beauty as a protest A room dedicated to the Pre-Raphaelites, as if their backwards neo-medieval kitsch were the last word in radicalism.

rachel whiteread Untitled (stairs) (Exhibition view at Tate Britain, 2023), 2001. ©Tate. Photo: Eugenio Falconi

And this zombie social art isn’t exactly ancient. It also tramples post-war and contemporary galleries. Construction 1955-1965 Neo-Constructivist British artists tell us that they were influenced by the pre-war avant-garde Dutch and Russian Constructivists (some of whom are shown in the previous room). international modern), which are in some way strongly related to post-war reconstruction and the welfare state.pop art and abstract works Full color 1960-1970 For example, rather than talk about British painters’ responses to the legacy of abstraction, talk about an artistic moment that “celebrates and reflects” the “new consumerism.”

This obsession with turning art into a code for social history, an illustration of a modern version of Britain, reveals the real problem at Tate Britain. I’m not even sure it’s relevant to anyone anymore — after all, who cares? About old British art, or even British thinking? In response, the association compresses centuries of art into digestible nuggets that (we believe) may appeal to new audiences defined by modern identity politics, and create a relevant It seems like they are putting effort into making it happen. As time passes and more art is created, there is no longer space in this old building to deeply observe a single artist or to observe multiple interconnected and competing movements. . So British art is ultimately what modern curators say it is. The dead create history, but it is the living who (rewrite) it.


Related Articles

Leave a Comment